Construction company fined $23K after employee death

A Cal/OSHA inspector speaks with members of the Berkeley Police Department and Berkeley Unified School District during a fatality investigation involving a construction worker at King Middle School on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 27, 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
A Cal/OSHA inspector speaks with members of the Berkeley Police Department and Berkeley Unified School District during a fatality investigation involving a construction worker at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School last August. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The San Jose-based construction company that employed a man killed during a work-related accident last August in Berkeley has been fined more than $20,000 for two related safety violations authorities said led to the man’s death.

The state Division of Occupational Safety & Health, OSHA, concluded its five-month investigation into the man’s death Jan. 30, Berkeleyside learned Wednesday.

OSHA issued two citations totaling $23,200 to the Robert A. Bothman Construction in connection with the alleged safety violations, which include not keeping under “positive control” the three-axle dump truck that crushed 62-year-old Oscar Marquez of Livermore on Aug. 27 while he was working on the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School track renovation project.

Authorities also found that, during an inspection Aug. 27, “the employer did not ensure that the parking brake was set and the wheels were chocked or otherwise prevented from movement… which resulted in the death of an employee.”


Bothman was fined $7,000 for the first violation, which was categorized as “general,” and $16,200 for the second, which was classified as “serious.”

Melton said last summer that the Bothman company had no listed violations over the prior five years, according to a check of a federal database that tracks those investigations. According to OSHA, Bothman is a general contractor with approximately 35 years of experience, and 224 employees.

According to OSHA’s investigation report, the agency received a call at 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 27 from the Berkeley Fire Department to report the fatal construction accident. OSHA assigned safety engineer Sean Sasser to investigate.

Oscar Marquez (Photo provided by family)
Oscar Marquez (Photo provided by family)

Sasser said in his report that Marquez had been working behind a three-axle 50,000-pound dump truck — which had been “parked on a pathway near the top of a small hill that connects the track and field area to the main campus of the school” — when it rolled down the hill and killed him at 12:45 p.m. at King School, at 1781 Rose St. in North Berkeley.

Sasser wrote that the truck’s driver had parked, set the brake and exited the vehicle. The driver was then behind the truck along with workers repairing asphalt pavement “when the truck began to roll backwards down the hill.”


One of the workers, Marquez, “was unable to get out of the path of the truck and was struck by the vehicle.” Witnesses told Sasser it was immediately clear that Marquez’s injuries were fatal. He ultimately was declared dead at the scene.

According to Sasser’s report, Bothman had three employees at the job site that day: Marquez, foreman Martin Arroyo, and Alfonso Pedroza, a laborer and driver. Both survivors provided oral statements to OSHA about the accident. David Hutchenson, an independent contractor listed as job site inspector who declined to participate in the OSHA investigation, was also on scene.

The California Highway Patrol examined the dump truck in October and found that nothing was wrong with its mechanics or brakes that could have contributed to the accident, Sasser wrote.

A representative from Bothman Construction could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but OSHA spokesman Peter Melton said via email that the company appealed the citations Feb. 6. The appeal will be handled by the Occupational Safety & Health Appeals Board, and begins with a prehearing conference call. The date of that call was not available Wednesday.

Brian Bothman, vice president of operations for Robert A. Bothman Construction, described Marquez last August as “a great guy” who had been with the company for 25 years. He said the company was deeply saddened by the death, and had reached out to Marquez’s family to offer support.


Related:
Authorities release name of man killed at King School (08.30.13)
Livermore man killed on construction site at King School (08.27.13)
King Middle School to get new field, all-weather track (07.16.13)

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